On World Wildlife Day: We Can Do More

Published on March 3rd, 2016

Yet another black rhino has been brutally murdered by poachers, leaving a two-year-old calf motherless. Adding to the immorality of the senseless and unconscionable act was that the rhino was 12 months pregnant and slaughtered at a conservancy in Kenya. Is there no safe harbor for our wildlife? This is one more of too many senseless killings of animals being driven to extinction by the massive footprint, greed and ignorance of Man that further shames our species.

According to the website of the Ol Pejeta Conservancy where this outrage happened, to keep their rhinos safe costs about $850 per rhino, per month. Equipping one ranger with boots, a radio headset, a solar charger and a uniform costs $280. In the whole scheme of things – and weighed against the real possibility of extinction of multiple species – these are nominal costs, certainly from a Western perspective, to protect rhinos or other animals.

The continuing onslaught of poaching begs the questions why aren’t there more philanthropy dollars going towards programs that can make greater impact and why isn’t there greater organized governmental response on a global basis to create a broad conservation directive for the world’s wildlife and seriously curtail epidemic levels of poaching?

The costs related to rhino safety in one conservancy also highlight the disingenuousness of trophy hunters who spend hundreds of millions of dollars to kill animals while claiming conservation credentials. Americans in particular have much blood on their hands, with U.S. hunters importing more than 126,000 dead animals – their trophies – a year, or a total of 1.2 million animals in the last 10 years. Animals are hunted in a variety of countries, but the elephants, leopards, lions and southern white rhino of Africa are most coveted – animals all listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as near threatened or vulnerable.

One well publicized hunt was last year when Texan Corey Knowlton paid $350,000 to kill a black rhino (endangered species) in Namibia. State sanctioned and billed as a kill based on science, with the money reportedly going towards anti-poaching and conservation efforts, “killing to conserve” still is a very hard sell for true conservationists. Based on the Ol Pejeta Conservancy’s numbers, a direct contribution of $350,000 would provide for 15 rhinos for more than two years, while, very importantly, promoting life and not death.

Saving species rather than driving them to extinction: Priceless.

Failure to adequately protect wildlife certainly is not just an issue in Africa, home to such a diversity of species. When 50 percent of the world’s wildlife has been lost in 40 years, it’s a very global issue. And here in the U.S., our treatment of, and policies for, wildlife, are increasingly being debated. By many measures, they’re lacking.

With your tax dollars, the U.S. government kills millions of animals annually – more than 4 million in fiscal year 2013 alone. These included black bears, bobcats, coyotes, foxes, river otters, prairie dogs and red-tailed hawks, animals which were shot, snared, poisoned or trapped. Add to this numerous perverse killing contests across the country, including a “Squirrel Slam” to raise money for a fire department and coyote contests, among other bizarre animal killing rites.

As well, in 21st century America, animals still are killed for their fur, even though we live in an age of highly advanced manmade materials for clothing that ensure warmth and protection from the elements. Traps are set, posing a threat not just to the intended species, but to other animals, people’s pets and children, as traps are indiscriminate – little landmines all across the country. Fur from U.S. trapping feeds overseas demand by newly rich Asians and Chinese, markets which have contributed to a doubling of global fur sales in just three years, from $15.6 billion in 2011 to $35.8 billion in 2013, despite activist efforts to end, or at least curtail, the fur trade.

Today, World Wildlife Day, is a day to increase awareness about the state of the world’s wildlife and to acknowledge the work of the many people in many organizations across the country and around the world who work to protect animals and ensure their survival. This includes park rangers – many of whom have died in the line of duty in Africa – who are the thin green line between an animal and a poacher.

World Wildlife Day also is a day to start a conversation with your friends, colleagues, neighbors and elected officials about what they think about the many issues surrounding wildlife and how each one of us can help change our trajectory of tremendous wildlife loss.


Part – in fact, a large part – of this discussion on the decimation of our wildlife does means talking about population growth of one species, Homo sapiens. The tremendous global population growth in the last 40 years has put pressure on all other species. As Man demands more and more from the planet, the result is less for other species – less space for them as we take over their natural habitat. In many places, we’re competing directly for the same living space as other species, and, as ecologist John Terborgh explains, that’s “a competition that will be won by humans wherever self-imposed restraints do not prevail.”

An often-repeated line among animal conservationists is from Mahatma Gandhi, who said, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” By that standard, the United States and other nations are wanting.


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